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30th August 1998

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From the Blue corner

What a charming performance!

By Paakshikaya

Sri Lanka's Leader, the charming Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe has told the 'Business Today' Magazine in this months issue 'I will ensure that a future UNP administration will be run decently and that every citizen in this country will be free to worship their religion and safeguard their political, economic, social and cultural rights, only bowing down to the law..."

So pledges this visionary leader of Sri Lanka. The Leader must have chosen his words carefully, surely, he knows that the people, foreign investors and diplomats listen to his every word. After all, the Great Ronnie (like Bonnie, who lies over the ocean most of the time) has referred to the UNP as the "government in waiting".

imageSo against this backdrop of Ranil Wickremesinghe's pledge, let us examine his track record of his days and years as Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of Education and more so, his years as Minister of Industries, Leader of the House and Prime Minister.

I have to begin, Virudda Paakshikaya, where I ended a fortnight ago, about this "Ambassador Extra-Ordinary" who was appointed Ambassador to USA by a Super Secretary. I understand, by fax, outside all legal and political procedures; outside the ambit of Harold Herat's Foreign office (or was it Ranjan's?) even outside the ambit of the over-riding Presidential Secretariat.

The Constitution of this country has given Executive powers to the President of the Republic. There is a great debate in the country about this. But outside the fundamental law - the law which Viruddha Paakshikaya says everyone must bow down to here - was the de facto "Vice President" of Sri Lanka appointing an Ambassador to America. So, isn't this an Ambassador 'extraordinary' with no plenipotentiary though?

But, Viruddha Paakshikaya, what I did not know a fortnight ago was equally astonishing. This Ambassador extraordinary was issued a red (diplomatic) passport as well. Not the light red one that all Sri Lankans get but a real red one; one as red as that issued by China.

So, fundamental questions arise from this, my dear Viruddha Paakshikaya. Was this Ambassador masquerading at Capitol Hill as our Ambassador? Who paid his bills? And, can the President and the Cabinet Ministers of the day deny any knowledge of this? Are they not equally responsible for any irregularity if as the constitution says state powers are exercised by the Executive President and his Cabinet of Ministers? And, was Parliament informed?

Now, Viruddha Paakshikaya, at least one Cabinet Minister of the day certainly cannot say he didn't know about this appointment. And that minister is not Harold Herat, the Foreign Minister; No, not even D.B. Wijetunga who was Finance Minister. That Minister is the Honourable Ranil Wickremesinghe.

Viruddha Paakshikaya will undoubtedly ask, why Ranil Wickremesinghe? That is because it was to Ranil Wickremesinghe that the government had assigned textile negotiations with the United States.

At that time the other Great Leader, R. Premadasa had launched a suicidal textile factory drive in the country. But our good friends in the USA, the preachers of free trade and open markets, had a stringent garment quota system in force, and Sri Lanka was fighting hard not only to increase it quota but also to keep what it already had.

So, it was Ranil Wickremesinghe who used this Ambassador to line-up meetings in the USA, Viruddha Paakshikaya might say "so, what?" and claim that the Embassy there and the accredited Ambassador were inefficient, and that the main thing was to get the job done. So, he might say, Ranil Wickremesinghe used this "efficient" Ambassador to do the job, for the Government and the Garment industry and its employees.

Now, it is this same Viruddha Paakshikaya's party which last month went on a moral crusade about Minister Mangala Samaraweera for allegedly misusing his credit card. They said that public money was being spent improperly for private gain. Mangala Samaraweera said he was doing it as a kind of Ambassador for Sri Lanka, when abroad. But the UNP maintains that this was wrong, improper and illegal. They brought a vote of no-confidence against Mangala Samaraweera for this and asked for his resignation.

Now, Viruddha Paakshikaya, if what the UNP said about Minister Samaraweera's no-confidence motion is correct, what can the UNP say about the appointment of the Ambassador extraordinary? The question here, is it proper to do a legitimate act in an improper manner? Does the end justify the means?

How does this read, Viruddha Paakshikaya, with what Ranil Wickremesinghe has said in Business Today of his vision for a future UNP administration?

We do not know the Ranil Wickremesinghe of the future.. But how do these words in 1998 match with what he and the UNP did five or six years ago? I will not labour on this point anymore. I leave it to our readers to be the Judge and Jury and my Viruddha Paakshikaya to be the defence lawyer - for a very bad case - if he can!

So, Viruddha Paakshikaya here I am coming out with Ranil Wickremesinghe's Top Ten as promised, because this same Ambassador Extra-Ordinary is now very much in Ranil Wickremesinghe's inner circle, making waves and causing ripples within the Party, I'm told, much in the same way he did in our party, the SLFP, ten years ago. Then, he was very much one of us hoping and praying that Ms. Bandaranaike will defeat R. Premadasa and that the SLFP will win the 1988/89 elections, so he could be somebody.

The problem for him though, was that your people, Viruddha Paakshikaya, . rigged the polls, got yourselves re-elected for yet another term (thanks partly to the IPKF Jawans voting for the UNP in the East). And our man felt the wind was blowing the other way, befriended the Super Secretary and then jumped into Ranil Wickremesinghe's bandwagon.

During the negotiations with the US, the US complained that some Sri Lankan garment exports were of substandard quality. They demanded specific quality control testing in Colombo prior to the export of garments to the US. This is now being done by a laboratory owned by a company run by this Ambassador Extraordinary, and is a monopoly as well.

Again, more questions arise, Viruddha Paakshikaya, should this be done by a private company? The present practice may be acceptable to the US, but is that the way the government here operates? Is this transparency? The UNP is now howling from the roof-tops accusing us of engaging in private deals without informing Parliament or the public. So, if this deal was a spin-off from government-to-government negotiations about the garment industry, ought not the then government have called for tenders on this subject? Or was it privy only to a selected few?

Frankly, I'm not sure if tenders were called, Viruddha Paakshikaya can enlighten me next week after verifying from his high command. But the fact remains - should a person who was party to negotiations on behalf of the government of Sri Lanka start a business arising from those very negotiations?

I would imagine quality testing of these garments are a mandatory requirement for all exports of garments carrying the "Made in Sri Lanka" lable. If so, it is tantamount to a quasi- -governmental contract, If so, has this Ambassador Extra-Ordinary declared to anyone that he had a business interest in a government contract while being paid by the Government of Sri Lanka?

Now, Viruddha Paakshikaya, let us get down to the return of the Ambassador Extra-Ordinary to Sri Lanka. There are many things to be said but I shall limit it to the scope of our debate - Ranil Wickremesinghe's link to the Business World of Sri Lanka.

When our man re-turned to roost, D.B. Wijetunga had assumed the mantle of the Presidency. The Super Secretary's own position was wobbly. Ranil Wickremesinghe's had however got a promotion. He was the Prime Minister of the Republic no doubt. All UNP Presidents treated their Prime Ministers as "peons", but Ranil Wickremesinghe was very much in the saddle running the administration with a clueless President at the helm. So, our Ambassador returned - or was "recalled" his job well done; and he wanted to be Secretary to the Prime Minister, Ranil Wickreme-singhe.

Here I concede I must pat Ranil Wickremesinghe on the back because he was able to say 'No'. Ranil Wickremes-inghe felt the entire public service would revolt at the very suggestion. Here was a young, thirty - something year old businessman wanting to be Secretary to the Prime Minister.

So, instead, he was given a high fallutin title - something, something to the Honorable Prime Minister of Sri Lanka. Very soon he was not only in power, but in place as well - sitting in at meetings, fixing appointments, following up on reports, doing projections, graphs etc. So, US-style politics was introduced to an otherwise, grassroot UNP. All this and the UNP lost for the first time in seventeen years with Ranil Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister.

This US-style politics which the UNP is still adapting (and good luck to them too) was first seen in the Southern Provincial Council elections ironically held on Ranil Wickremesinghe's birthday in 1994.

Ranil Wickremesinghe was taken by bus (not the CTB ones - a luxury bus) like the bus-stop visits of US Presidential candidates. The problem was, due to security conditions, the STF had to block all the roads in and around Galle for Ranil Wickremesinghe to do his US-style campaigning.

Tea small holders had their tea dalu-leaves boiling in the noon sun, 'ordinary' people inside CTB buses began hurling abuse, at the VVIP going around with armed cops in luxury buses. Eventually, the UNP lost the election and the first signal that the people wanted a change was given.

Came the August 1994 elections and Ranil Wickremesinghe made a tactical shift from the Gampaha district which he represented from 1997 and moved into the safer Colombo district, to win.

And when we came into office, our man Flint took off to the US to do further studies.He had a lot to learn.

He has now come back, acquired for himself a new designation - something something to the leader of the UNP - this time. Such designations come in handy when you are in business, both local and foreign.

It may become a liability with the government in power when you are 'Something Something to the leader of the UNP, but the business acumen which he has acquired from the family business has taught him to keep in touch with at last two of our prominent Cabinet Ministers, one a learned professor and the other whom he claims is a man from the clan.

My buddies in the UNP say that through this approach he is seriously considering contesting a Parliamentary seat, The head of the UNP Lawyers' Association it seems has even suggested him for Colombo East, co-incidentally the seat that we have given to the Professor. The argument trotted only by this learned lawyer is that this businessman can get clan votes from Colombo East.

I'm told that Matara, where some of his clan members are also voters is another option available. A good businessman studies markets and weighs options before taking the plunge.

That is also why, while he arranged trips for the Professor to Malaysia (where he has many business interests - as the same Business Today magazine will tell you elsewhere) he is also having a series of UNP seminars and workshops in the Matara District ("puffing up" programmes, you could call them!).

Now Viruddha Paakshikaya, while I was jotting these things I get a call from the sub-editor doing my page in The Sunday Times saying that I have limited space this week due to heavy advertising. (Do I smell a conspiracy here?).

Never mind Viruddha Paakshikaya ,I am sure I can elaborate next time. I thought I will need ten weeks for Ranil Wickremesinghe's Top Ten. It looks as if it can go on till the next elections.

I have more to say but for now let me sign off by saying that this 'Something Something' to the UNP Leader is undoubtedy "Americanised' and pro-US having introduced US-style campaigning for Ranil Wickremesinghe and is now using high-tech video slides with projections, charts and graphs etc.

But at the end of the day, the young man is looking for a "safe seat" relying on the votes of his clan members to elect him to Parliament. He sure knows the importance of aiming for the stars and stripes but eventually relying on his roots, in grassroot politics, doesn't he, Viruddha Paakshikaya.


Let us remember

Officers of the Intake-36 of Sri Lanka Army celebrated their 7th anniversary yesterday. Intake-36 was enlisted to the Sri Lanka Army on August 26 1991. After completing almost two years of training period at the Sri Lanka Military Academy at Diyathalawa, they were commissioned on June 19, 1993 as Second Lieutenants.

Of the officers who joined the Sri Lanka Army with us on August 26, 1991 and the officers who were commissioned with us and passed out with us on the June 19 1993, 14 gallant comrades paid the supreme sacrifice in the battle fronts at North and East.

A Bodhi pooja pinkama was held at the Gangaramaya temple on Saturday to invoke merit on our dear brothers who were killed in action and missing in action. An Officer's get together will also be held at the Wadduwa Holiday Resort today.

Officers killed in action and missing in action

Major        WGHIS         Bandara              GW
Captain      AKH             Ekanayake          SLAC
Captain      WGS            Weerasinghe        SLE
Captain      SVN             Edirisinghe           SLSR
Captain      CS                Gunasena            SLSR
Captain      WMDBB      Weerasekara      SLLI
Captain      GLCR           Samaratunga       GR
Captain      EAP              Ediriweera          GW
Captain      TML             Galappththi         SLSR
Captain      WUR            Lowe                 VIR
Captain      MGR            Bandara             SLAC
Captain      TM               Liyanagamage    SLSR
Lieutenant   NII              Wedage             SLLI
Lieutenant   ND              Amarabandu      CR

".. They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old, age shall not vary, nor years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning we will remember them.."

May the fallen heroes Attain Nibbana

M S C Liyanage

Basil Seneviratne

It is with deep sorrow that we record the recent death of Professor Basil Seneviratne in Brisbane. Australia.

He was a distinguished physician, a great scholar and a giant among intellectuals. He was also a humble, gentle person.

Basil was educated at Trinity College, Kandy. He entered the Medical School in Colombo and I remember seeing him as a senior student.He cut a dashing figure and had a regal bearing. He excelled academically and passed the final examination with first Class Honours and he won the gold medal in medicine. He was one of the brightest students to pass through the institution.

He subsequently passed the MD examination in Ceylon and the MRCP examination in the U.K.

On his return he worked at the Badulla Hospital for a number of years. When he commenced work the Badulla Hospital was run down. Basil worked hard and managed to get the hospital equipped and thereby lift the standard of medical care. While in Badulla he came into contact with the poor patients of the area. His gentle heart bled for their suffering. He devoted his skills and time to help them. He was a dedicated compassionate caring physician. He never thought of monitory gains. He would spend long hours at the bedside of a patient just to save a life.

During his off weekends he used to travel to remote villages with his wife, Eranganie. They would spend that time distributing free medical care and advice to the poor villagers.

On these trips he discovered the extent of anaemia afflicting these people. He used to collect samples of blood while his wife used to collect samples of bone marrow to be brought back to Badulla Hospital for analysis. His research on this resulted in the publication of very useful material. During this period Basil took a keen interest in the Saukyadana Movement. He was one of the pioneers and a stalwart of this charitable institution.

Basil used to reminisce that some of his happiest days were spent in Badulla. He was a great friend of the poor. He loved travelling around the villages and meeting the ordinary folks. He could sit and converse with them as a friend. He never spoke to the villagers in a condescending way.

Basil subsequently left for New Zealand where he worked as a Consultant Physician at the Invercargill Hospital.

He was solely responsible for starting the Cardiology Unit there. To equip the unit he collected donations himself. He would appeal to the local people through the radio and newspapers and he was successful with this. He served at the Invercargill Hospital for several years and then decided to move. Before he left Invercargill, an eminent doctor at the institution had commented that Invercargill was losing its best brain to Australia.

We were fortunate that he came to live in Brisbane. He held the appointment of Director of Medicine at the Green slopes Hospital. His exceptional ability as a physician, his great skills in research and in teaching brought him into prominence. He re-organised and improved the teaching facilities at the institution by leaps and bounds. In fact after Basil moved in there, the hospital had some of the best results in post graduate examinations.

His inquisitive mind made him continue with his research and this resulted in the publication of well over a dozen papers of great merit in leading medical journals. His main research interest was Cardiovascular disease and Stroke.

In recognition of his excellence the University of Queensland appointed him an Associate Professor of Medicine.

He received even greater honour when he was appointed as Examiner at the Royal Australiasian College of Physicians. This was indeed a unique honour as just only a handful of the most eminent physicians in the country are on the Board of Examiners.

In appreciation of the immense contribution he made towards medical education, the Greenslopes Hospital (where he worked) has named the library as "The Dr. Basil Seneviratne Library''.

We are amazed that inspite of his great achievement Basil never spoke about them. Even as close associates we came to hear of this only a long time afterwards and that too indirectly through other people. He was a most self effacing humble person.

Basil was a devout Buddhist. He was President of the Brisbane Buddhist Vihara for a number of years and he served this institution well. He was generous with his time and money. Most of all he was a practicing Buddhist. He had goodwill and compassion towards everyone.

We could not hope for a better friend than Basil. He was sincere, honest and helpful. He was a role model for us. He could he described as a Kalyanamitra.

Basil was a very hospitable host and a great entertainer. He had a subtle sense of humour which kept his friends continuously amused. We all have very fond memories of the many happy hours we had spent at his home.

Basil has served humanity with distinction. By so doing, he has brought great honour to his Mother Country. He has kept the Sri Lankan flag fluttering high in our adopted land. He had visions of returning to Sri Lanka and covering the length and breadth of the country doing further research into stroke in young people. Unfortunately his illness prevented him from doing so.

We are fortunate that this great person passed our way. He enriched our lives and by keeping his company, we ourselves have become better human beings.

His contribution to humanity and medicine was enormous.

Basil is no more but we will always cherish the fond memories he has left behind.

We extend our deepest sympathy to his family,.

Dr. Gamini Jayasinghe

Sir Razik Fareed

MARHOOM Sir Razik Fareed was born on December 29 1893 at Grandpass, Colombo and received his education at Zahira College, Colombo and Royal College. He came into residence at "Hajara Villa", Fareed Place Colombo 04, in 1915. He was the son of Marhoom W.M. Abdul Rahman and the grandson of Wappichchi Marikar.

Sir Razik inherited from his ancestors the spirit of service to his community and country. Wappichchi Marikar founded Zahira College, Colombo, while Sir Razik founded the Muslim Ladies College, Colombo, two leading Colleges for boys and girls.

Sir Razik Fareed championed the cause of Sinhala-Moor unity and for a united Sri Lanka, thus demonstrating that the interest of the Moor community and the welfare of all Sri Lankans were near and dear to him. In this respect he proved his sincerity by his relentless service to the Muslim community and the country. No wonder he was popularly known as the "Uncrowned King of the Ceylon Moors".

In 1930 he entered politics and was a member of the Municipal Council, the Senate, and Parliament in a long political career capped by his appointment as a Minister in 1960. Later he moved into the diplomatic field and was Sri Lanka's High Commissioner in Pakistan.

In 1946 Sir Razik Fareed was associated with Mr. D.S. Senanayake in founding the United National Party.

He established the Muslim Ladies College, to give every educated Muslim boy and educated Muslim bride.

Sir Razik was a person with a generous heart. He spent much of his wealth on the poor without many knowing it.

His long service for the community as president and later life president of the All Ceylon Moor's Association for nealry 40 years and as president of the Moors Islamic Cultural Home for more than 40 years were complimentary to his crowned life of service to the community.

A grateful community has established a foundation inspired by a sense of gratitude called the Sir Razik Fareed Foundation to foster and preserve for posterity the humble services rendered by him in the name of Allah.

He passed away on August 24 1984 at the Age of 91.

M. Ruzaik Farook
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